Despite the rancor in Congress about federal government spending, a new low-cost, money-saving initiative began this year to incentivize energy conservation. President Obama and the Dept of Energy (DOE) launched the “Better Buildings Initiative”, which hopes to channel private sector investment through incentives to upgrade offices, stores, schools and other municipal buildings, universities, hospitals, and commercial buildings. The goal of the initiative is to make commercial buildings 20% more energy efficient over the next decade, reducing the demand for electricity and new plants. The initiative is also expected to reduce energy bills for businesses by about $40 billion annually. To get more details, see: www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/betterbuildings.
A summary of the initiative’s five components:
1) Tax incentives – The Initiative showcases existing tax incentives for building owners who perform energy efficiency upgrades, such as a tax deduction of up to $1.80/sf for buildings that reduce heating and cooling energy usage by at least 50%. There is a 30% investment tax credits (ITC) for solar energy and qualified fuel cell and small wind energy property. A 10% ITC is available for combined heat and power systems (CHP) and geothermal heat pumps.
2) Ease financing for energy retrofits – The Initiative directs the Small Business Administration and DOE to increase low-cost lending to small businesses for energy retrofits. The total amount of available loans is currently being negotiated.
3) “Race to Green” competitive grant program – This program will provide grants to states and/or local governments to research and upgrade their codes and programs to encourage energy upgrades and private sector investment.
4) Building construction technology training and tools – This program will create pilot programs to standardize training for workers to implement the next generation of energy auditing and building operations. The program will also enable normally expensive teaching tools to be more affordable.
5) “Better Building Challenge” – This effort will encourage the private sector to upgrade their facilities and make investments to decrease energy use and create jobs. Partners will commit to a series of appropriate goals and will in turn receive public recognition, technical assistance, and best-practices sharing to meet them.
The first of these five components is already in place. The others are awaiting final funding, which is expected to occur after the current debt ceiling debate has concluded.
Marc Karell, a member of the Hudson Highlands Environmental Consulting Consortium, can help your building manager assess where it stands now in terms of energy conservation, the feasibility and benefits of different potential energy conservation strategies and technologies, and review available financial incentives offered by the federal government to make such strategies economically viable and maximize the benefits for your building.
Click on link to go to author’s page: Marc Karell P.E., CEM
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